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April 10, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency says it's a complete coincidence that it fired a career staffer who signed off on a report contradicting claims that EPA head Scott Pruitt has received death threats on the same day Senate Democrats cited that assessment as evidence that the EPA had no reason to spend millions on increased security for Pruitt.

Until Tuesday, Mario Caraballo was the deputy associate administrator of EPA's Office of Homeland Security. A person with direct knowledge of Caraballo's dismissal told Politico that the EPA is saying he was let go because of a personnel issue stemming from a military job he held nearly 10 years ago that was resolved at the time and reviewed by the EPA years ago. His firing won't scare critics of Pruitt, one employee told Politico, adding, "this is going to embolden us to leak more to get these criminals out."

On Feb. 14, Caraballo signed off on a report that stated, "EPA Intelligence has not identified any specific, credible, direct threat to the EPA administrator." EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox has claimed that Pruitt has received an "unprecedented" amount of death threats, and that's why he has a full-time, 20-person-strong security detail and must travel in first class. President Trump repeated that death-threats claim last week.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said they read the report, and the "threats" were actually "nonviolent protests" and "negative feedback" about Pruitt's policies and actions. The senators called for bipartisan oversight hearings at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, a request denied by committee chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Catherine Garcia

11:50p.m.

Conservative author and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi told The Guardian on Tuesday that during a recent interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, he was asked about Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party and a prominent Brexit campaigner.

Corsi is one of GOP strategist Roger Stone's associates, and on Monday, he announced he expects to be indicted by Mueller soon. Corsi said Mueller's investigators asked him about any advance knowledge he may have had regarding WikiLeaks releasing emails stolen from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and Corsi said the questions about Farage were related to U.S. politics "but of course Brexit was in the background." Farage, who campaigned with Trump, has denied having any involvement with Russia ahead of the Brexit vote.

Corsi said he was also asked about Ted Malloch, an American academic based in London, who has ties to Farage and was an informal adviser to Trump. Earlier this year, FBI agents interviewed Malloch; at the time, he told The Guardian he was asked about his relationship with Stone and if he ever visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. While he was willing to share with The Guardian that he was asked about Farage and Malloch, Corsi refused to go into "detail because I respect the special counsel and the legal process." Catherine Garcia

11:47p.m.

On Tuesday, President Trump hosted a celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights and one of the religion's most popular annual festivals, at the White House. Diwali was actually a week earlier, Nov. 7, and in his tweet marking his belated celebration of the festival, Trump — or more likely, one of his staffers — explained that Diwali is "a holiday observed by Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains throughout the United States & around the world."

Diwali is not widely celebrated among Buddhists, and people noticed that he left out the Hindus.

Trump — who proclaimed during the 2016 election that "we love the Hindus!" — followed up with a tweet expressing his "great honor" at hosting a "celebration of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights," calling the attendees of his celebration "very, very special people!"

Last year, Trump hosted an intimate Diwali celebration in the Oval Office, organized by major GOP fundraiser Shalabh "Shalli" Kumar, India Abroad reports. And that this year's Diwali celebration almost did not happen because the White House was busy with the midterm elections and, as one senior administration official told the publication, with "everything else that’s going on, organizing a Diwali event this year has not been something we've been thinking about." There has been a White House Diwali celebration every year since 2003. Peter Weber

10:40p.m.

Democrat Josh Harder has defeated Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in California's 10th congressional district, The Associated Press reports.

With the latest vote count released on Tuesday, Harder has a 4,919 vote lead over Denham, the four-term incumbent, and because there aren't many ballots left to count, there's no way he can overcome the deficit.

A first time candidate, Harder, 32, was born and raised in the 10th congressional district, which sits in California's Central Valley. While campaigning, the venture capitalist said he will push for universal health care, and repeatedly brought up Denham's vote against the Affordable Care Act. Denham, 51, painted Harder as someone who doesn't understand the area with an "extreme" agenda.

This is the fourth Democratic pickup of a Republican House seat in California. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried the district, but Denham was able to win his race by three percentage points. Catherine Garcia

9:40p.m.

After holding the lead for a week, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) is now trailing her Democratic challenger in Southern California's 45th congressional district, Democratic law professor Katie Porter, by 261 votes.

Orange County released its latest ballot count on Tuesday evening. Walters was ahead of Porter by three percent on Election Day last Tuesday, but by Monday, her lead had dropped to 1,000. The Los Angeles Times says that typically in California, the last ballots counted are provisional or mailed late, and those usually favor Democrats.

In races that have been called, Democrats won three of 14 seats held by Republicans in California. Catherine Garcia

9:00p.m.

If Jennifer Senior could go back to the summer of 2017, she would have written a very different review of the book Conscience of a Conservative.

Senior, now a New York Times opinion columnist, was a book critic when Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) released his tome. In the Times on Tuesday, Senior writes that she gave the book a "mostly kind review," but now, she's "seriously reconsidering" it. Flake has "always been a class act," Senior said, and she applauded him for being the first Republican senator to "call President Trump the domestic and international menace that he is." But while Flake loudly asserted that he was standing up to Trump, he still went along and voted with the president 84 percent of the time. "Jeff Flake's book couldn't even convince Jeff Flake," Senior said.

Flake may have said he really, truly believed Trump posed a threat to democracy, but his voting record paints a different picture. Flake had ample opportunities to "align himself with the opposition," like the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act. Instead, he said he had misgivings about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, yet still voted to confirm him. Trump is now the face of the Republican Party, Senior said, which is "heavy with nativists, populists, protectionists, assorted supremacists." Flake has urgently called for a return to the party's roots, but that has had "zero effect," and instead of his book being a critique of Trump, it "was a tragedy." Catherine Garcia

7:42p.m.

President Trump spent much of his Monday meeting with his legal team, going over questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and writing out responses, people close to Trump told ABC News Tuesday.

Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and his questions for Trump center around Russian meddling, ABC News reports. Trump and his lawyers were expected to work on his responses during a Tuesday meeting as well.

So far, 32 people have been indicted by Mueller, with six pleading guilty — including Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — and three sentenced to prison. Catherine Garcia

6:51p.m.

On Tuesday, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's campaign filed a federal lawsuit to extend the statewide recount of last week's Senate race.

Nelson ran against Florida's current governor, Republican Rick Scott. Scott has a slight lead over Nelson, ahead by just .14 percent. By Florida law, when the top two candidates are within half a percentage point, counties must conduct a machine recount. That's been the case this month in the governor, U.S. Senate, and agriculture commissioner races.

The deadline for the recount is 3 p.m ET Thursday, which the Palm Beach County elections supervisor has said will be "impossible to meet," USA Today reports. Nelson's campaign said the lawsuit "seeks to allow all local elections officials in the 67 Florida counties the time they say is needed to finish a legally mandated and accurate recount because the race was so close." Catherine Garcia

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